Only Children and Solo Play

Updated on January 27, 2010
D.P. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
7 answers

I have a soon-to-be 7 year old son (our "only"). This question is specifically for mothers of only children. I find that my son does not seem to want to play alone with his toys and games. While we do not mind playing with him, I'm wondering if he shouldn't be doing more solo play time. Moms, how do your "onlies" handle solo play and how do you encourage it yet not seem like you don't WANT to do the activity?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

More Answers


answers from Williamsport on

My friend has a 9 year old only son and handles this beautifully-I've learned a lot form her for my oldest daughter who is bored out of her mind unless someone is playing WITH her. My friend runs her own business from home, and her son used to be incapable of self play, and she had to resolve it.

First of all, clear your conscience, it is TOTALLY OK that you don't always want to play with him, and he's old enough to learn you're not always free. That said, you really don't ever need the words, "I don't want to do this with you", so his feelings won't be hurt.

Organize things for him first. Give him a few fun designated areas to play and things to do. Or just O., depending on your set up. In each area, keep only O. or two activities-too many options tends to make kids check out. Simplicity is key.

Let him know you have work you need to do and he must play for (give specific window). Get him started, and then let him know you've got to go, point at the clock and let him know how long he needs to play. It may take some enforcing at first, but it's a skill he needs and a lesson that moms aren't always available to play.

If I'm painting in the studio, or working on business and my son is in his nap, I set up a clear table for my daughter (4) with play dough, a coloring book, a dress up doll, her stable and horses...just O. THING at a time with all the accessories it needs and I let her know I cannot play with her until such and such a time. She used to keep wandering over to lean on me etc, but she got it when I treated it like a rule and never backed down.

Now she likes the security of the schedule, has learned that momma has important business to attend to, and tells her brother not to bug me for those increments of time, and she's learned to tell time really well! She also got better at being inventive. It took a few weeks. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My son is younger... only 4, but also likes for us to play with him constantly. I find that getting him started on an activity and then telling him that I have to go and do something helps. Sometimes, I just tell him to go find something to do on his own while I do my own work. (Don't get me wrong... I play with him a lot, but he needs to learn to entertain himself as well.) He may whine for a few minutes, but after a while, he will find something to entertain himself. The rule when I was growing up was that if we said we were "bored", my mom would find something for us to do and it usually involved housework or chores. Eventually, we got the idea that whatever we could find to do on our own was better than cleaning the bathroom.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lancaster on

Sorry (I have three children) but I thought you may find this useful. All three of my children are different! I have O. that is extremely active, and is always out running around with friends playing sports etc, and O. that is an excellent solo player - she will play with her Barbies by herself for hours! Every child is different with what appeals to them. I can tell you I wasn't a very good solo player when I was young.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Hi Denise,
My only child is now 14.He always liked me to be near when he was playing but when it got too much i just would tell him i have some things to do and I will be right back. Then he would end up playing by himself. They grow out of it but because it is a smaller family we do tend to do alot of family things together.As long as he has friends as well.When they get older they do not need you as much and then you miss those precious times.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

Hi Denise,

Even though I have 3 kids, my first was an only child (13 when second was born). My second child was horrible at solo play, but thankfully he got a sister at 2. Even so he was still not good at playing alone. I think girls have the advantage of more imaginative solo play toys (Barbies, My Little Pony, etc.). The joke around here is that if we give my daughter a stick and a piece of gum we won't see her until dinner.

Take a look around the house and see if he has enough solo toys and figure out if you would be bored. I found that if toys did not have their components the kids lost interest in them, so I would make sure the farm had all of the animals or the crayons were near the coloring books, things like that. We got our son an iCoaster, that worked well for him. We also were signed up for a children's book club that had activity books that went with the books we got - they were I Can Read books, that may be a good stage for your son. Electronics work, but can be addictive for both child and parent. How about letting him make a movie with his dinosaurs and a camcorder (we got hours of play time out of that). Of course, blocks (legs or wood) and encourage him to build a city with his cars, too. There are kits for juggling or paper airplanes. My sister gave both kids books, called "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and "The Daring Book for Girls" (which is not dangerous at all LOL).

What I would do with son, was start playing with him and then say something like "buddy, I have to do go X, but i'll be back in a little bit." and then i would go off to do my chore to give him some time to play alone and see what kind of time he could get out of that activity. Of course, I would go back but just to give a "good job" and try to wander off. I would venture to guess that you would love nothing better than playing with him but are trying to encourage him to entertain himself and tap into his imagination.

Hope that helped a little.


Also, what about K'nex, Magnetix (I know they recalled these a few years ago - but they probably revamped the design) and puzzles. There are even a puzzle-in-puzzles which are pretty cool, too, made by Ravensburger.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I am also the mother of a seven year old who is our only child. He spends lots of time by himself, playing legos and drawing. He is very independent but looks forward to our family game nights and movies together. I would schedule times to play together but also make sure he has toys that are fun for just him. If he is not into legos yet, I would get him started on that right away. My son would play with them as long as he was allowed to, all day and night if he could. I set aside some time when he gets a new set, so we can build it together, they can be quite a challenge, after that he his on his own to change or rebuild them anyway he wants.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

he goes to school I suppose. I have O. child she is 4 she doesn't go to school. She never wants to play by herself. She constintly wants to play with us or other kids. Which not being in school she doesn't have much interaction with other kids. Try maybe putting him in some kind of sport and he can make some friends if he doesn't have many or any maybe that is his way of telling you he wants some kids to play with try tball or soccor those are good sports for his age

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions